It’s easy to take care of your kids when they are under your constant supervision.
But, at some point, we have to let them go out into the world and learn to manage their allergies for themselves.
Here is a back to school checklist of things that you can take to help your child as they head back to school or off to camp this year.
Learn to inject epinephrine. Speak with your child’s doctor about training your child to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Younger kids will need adults to do this at first, but as they grow older and more responsible, children need to learn how to administer the life-saving medication themselves. You can even let them inject an orange when your current stash expires so they understand exactly what to do. Practicing will help make the proper response more automatic in a crisis situation.
Don’t share food. Though they may have the best intentions, your child’s friends can accidentally hurt your child when they share their snacks or lunch.
Wear your allergy bracelets. The choices of bracelets, necklaces and even shoe tags are as numerous as the children who need to wear them. Be sure to find one that your kid loves and is not embarrassed to wear.
Introduce yourself to adults. Teach your child to greet adults and explain their allergies when going to a new place. This includes school. Even though you may talk with your child’s teachers about the allergies, it helps if the educator can put a face to your child’s name.
Recognize the symptoms of a reaction—and tell someone. Severe allergic reactions require immediate medical attention. Help your child learn to recognize the early symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms may include itching, coughing, chest discomfort or tightness, difficulty breathing, and nausea or vomiting. If these symptoms occur, your child should speak with an adult immediately.
Most people experience mild allergy symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes. But, some people experience a much more severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. This means that exposure to a common item, such as food, latex, or a medication can send them into a state of shock or even kill them. Do you know how to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis? It could save a life.
If you experience these symptoms, you should use your epinephrine auto injector and call 911. If you have experienced these symptoms in the past, be sure to talk with your doctor about whether you should be carrying epinephrine.p>
Are you excited about the end of summer? Or are you dreading sending your child off to a school because you know just how dangerous it can be? Are you worried that your child will be exposed while you are away from them?
Here are some things that you can do to help make sure that your child has a safe and healthy transition to the school year:
Make an appointment with your allergist or primary care physician before the school year starts.
Be sure that you have a current allergy action plan in place. It should contain a current photo of your child and accurate contact information for both you and your doctor. Check your medicine supply to make sure you have enough to send to school. This way, you can ask for any prescriptions you may need while you are there.
If your child is younger, order a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
Be sure to include the child’s name and all allergies, and your emergency contact number. You can also include whether epinephrine should be administered in the case of a severe reaction.
Schedule a meeting with your school staff.
Try to meet with your school principal, the school nurse, and your child’s teacher. You need to work as a team to ensure your child’s safety. Make sure that everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Also, make plans for different scenarios, such as snack time, lunchtime, classroom parties, and field trips.
If your children are going to be involved in any kind of activities outside of the house, you need to be able to communicate their food needs with their teachers. Some might think that because we homeschool that we do not have this need. However, we are actually quite active outside of our own home. Both girls are taking multiple dance classes this year. In the past we have participated in a homeschool enrichment program, swim camps, day camps as well as childcare facilities at our gym and church.
So here are some tips for communicating with teachers and other caregivers:
1. Start off right.
Tell each institution at the beginning of the year. Make sure that they understand and have documented that your child has food allergies. (The time for debating your wording is not when communicating your child’s needs. Allergy is a word that most adults understand. Intolerance can be confusing, so keep it simple!) Do this even if they say they don’t allow food in the room, and don’t serve food. This helps to alert them to keep stray food away from your child.
2. Make sure that your child has some kind of identification that states their food allergies.
Most childcare facilities have these for you. However, some places are not used to dealing with food allergies and you may need to be proactive and provide this yourself. A brightly colored shipping label with a simple message like: “I have food allergies. Please don’t offer me food without checking with my Mommy” usually does the job. This is very helpful when food is being served, as it makes your child stand out when food is being passed around. It’s very easy to loose track of which kid needs what when you are feeding a room full of hungry toddlers or children.
3. Train your child not to eat anything that Mommy didn’t make or say is safe.
No matter how much you talk to your teachers and pack your own version of what is being offered, someone will offer your child something anyway. They think they are being helpful and nice. Your child needs to have the proper and polite words to say when the situation arises when you are not with them. My children are reminded regularly (even though they are now old enough to know) “Do not eat anything that Mommy didn’t make or pack. If they offer something, say No, Thank You. I have food allergies.” I also tell them that if an adult is being pushy about it, that they can take the food (usually candy) and tell them that they need to check with Mommy before they eat it.
4. Offer to provide an alternative.
There are two ways to do this. You can bring a safe alternative for your child so that they can still fully participate or you can bring a safe alternative for the entire class. Both are generally welcomed by teachers because it makes it easy for them. I try to tell our teachers at the beginning of the year that if they will let me know before hand, I would be happy to provide an alternative for my children. Also, make sure your kids know that you will trade them for a safe option when you get home (or you can carry some in your purse).
5. If they won’t help or actually hurt the situation, find somewhere else.
It’s hard on our kids to ask them to make grown-up decisions without Mom or Dad there to help them. It is important that those adults in charge are up to date and able to be a helpful part of the picture. If they are pushing your kids to eat something that makes them sick, talk to them first, but don’t be afraid to pull them out of that class or activity.
It goes without saying that children will have holiday parties, and birthday parties, and many other public events where food will be served. But what do you do if your child (or you) have a food allergy or intolerance?
I don’t want my daughter to feel like she can’t participate in the fun. So, here are some strategies that help us get out of the house and live life!
Bring something to share. If I am going to a potluck type of event, I make sure that I bring something she can eat, and plenty to pass around. This is a great scenario because then she isn’t the only one with a certain food item.
Bring food along. I try to keep cupcakes, cookies, and other special treats on hand for these occasions. I feel horrible when my daughter goes to dance class and is handed a piece of candy that she can’t eat because it’s Halloween or Christmas, or goes to a birthday party and can’t eat cake and ice cream. If I know ahead, I bring it along, and give it to the teacher so they can give it to her. If not, I trade her a friendly treat for what she received when we get home.
Notify teachers and other hosts ahead of time. This is especially important if you will not be staying at the event yourself. Make sure a responsible adult knows what your daughter can’t have. I have been known to contact other parents before birthday parties to find out what flavor of cake, and theme is being used, so that her cupcake doesn’t stand out as being different.